Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

Songs and Solos – the next book

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday.  As promised, here is the first detailed information about my next songwriting book, to be be published by Backbeat in the summer.

Many songs have a moment when the spotlight shifts away from vocals and lyrics to an instrumental solo. Often this solo is played on guitar.  Songs and Solos examines this neglected facet of songwriting. It is a unique manual of creativity for guitar-playing songwriters who want to make the best use of solos in their songs. For the songwriter who composes with a guitar, solos are a significant way a song can be intensified. Though lead guitar technique for its own sake is widely discussed, this book takes a new approach, focusing instead on the relationship of the solo to the song.

      Songs and Solos has 12 sections. Section One relates a brief history of the solo in since the mid-1950s when the electric guitar changed the course of popular music. It narrates how, from the 1960s, the guitar became the most likely soloing instrument, and how lead guitarists became a potent musical and symbolic figures. Some of the roles and politics of the guitar solo are traced through musical genres popular in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, including how attitudes to solos changed. Section Two is a practical look at basic concepts of soloing, and Section Three looks at how a solo is positioned and integrated. For the songwriter this section discusses what a solo can do for a song and where it might be placed for maximum effect.

      Section Four surveys the use of other instruments than guitar to add solos to songs. This is important knowledge for a songwriter, because a guitar solo might not always be best for a given song. These other instruments include acoustic and electric piano, synths, saxophone, piano, trumpet, flute, recorder, and strings. All have been featured during solo breaks in songs.

     Section Five looks at the implications for soloing of choosing one type of guitar over another, including nylon ‘classical’, steel-string acoustic, and electric, six- and 12-string. It also covers the way various guitar techniques and effects influence a solo, including harmonics, wah-wah, feedback, sustain, echo, vibrato, tremolo, phasing and playing with the fingers rather than a pick. Section Six deals with the way scales and harmony relate. This has  information about which scales are the most useful for solos and the chords they fit. Section Seven rounds up guitar techniques for soloing which are not based primarily on scales.

      The next four sections illustrate this practical knowledge with short solos, designed to show a range of techniques, scales and chord types, so by the end of the book you’ll know which scales fit over the likeliest chords encountered in a song. These solos are given in standard notation, TAB, and on the CD. Each of the 42 audio tracks is repeated just as a backing track so you can use them to practise the example or improvise your own.  Section Eight deals with scales and major key chord progressions, and Section Nine with minor key soloing. Section 10 looks at how to solo when a progression includes the common out-of-key chords used by songwriters – the ones labelled ‘reverse polarity’ and ‘flat degree’ chords in my other songwriting books. Section 11 discusses how to solo over more complex harmony, including common altered chords and unrelated chords. Section 12 has quotes about soloing from famous guitarists.

      Songs and Solos cites solos in over 800 songs by more than 600 artists. Features in these solos are mentioned and described for comparison, but there are no transcriptions of these solos in this book. Songs and Solos is about creating and playing your own solos.

I hope this book will prove useful to everyone who has already bought my songwriting titles.


10 responses

  1. Michael Bonett

    Great idea – interesting content and filling a gap in the market. I suggest to include targeting chord tones (e.g. Let it Be solo, Comfortably Numb solo) and the role of leading to/surrounding the target chord tone. Also changing/selecting guitar pick ups in the solo, contrast, starting slowly and gaining tension and climax, telling a story, copying vocal lines, motific development, feelings and improvisations versus planning, combining different recording takes, playing different arpeggios on other chords to contribute to different total chord quality (e.g Em on C= Cmaj7). I will pre-order it. Have you seen these books as references? Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. Don’t forget Kirk Hammet’s solo on the song Unforgiven by Metallica and of course Stairway to Heaven and Hotel California! What about using alternate pentatonics? Am Em Bm on Am for example? or on a minor blues with an F9 and E9 chromatic chord movement. Chromatic scales like the classic Rock Around the Clock solo. Using Diminished arpeggio on the 4 chord of the blues or an augmented chord on the 5 chord. So many ideas…. call and response, using different registers… the list is endless. These references are important too: Solo: 50 Classic Guitar Solos, Transcribed and Explained by Phil Hilborne and LA CHITARRA SOLISTA 2 di Massimo Varini, distribuzione Carisch. (see you tube and the diagram on targeting chord tone sin melodic solos). Don’t Forget Randy Rhoads solo e.g. Crazy train or MR. Crowley and harmonised lead lines. Still got the Blues by Gary Moore.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    • Hello Michael, thanks for your suggestions. Many of the things you mention are in the book in some form or other. But I should point out that I have announced the book because it is finished. The text is with the publisher and I will from now on only make minor changes and corrections. Best wishes, Rikky.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:55 am

  2. David T. Lyon

    I’m glad you’re releasing your next book! I have most of what you’ve written and they’ve really helped me as both a song writer and musician! Keep ‘Em coming. Thanks Rikki!

    January 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    • Thanks for your response David. News on a publication date when I have it. Spread the word!

      January 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

  3. Awesome idea for a book! Can’t wait to get it! This will be a great, fresh way to look at guitar soloing, and I will definitely be purchasing your book when it is finished. Good luck!

    January 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm

  4. Michael Bonett

    I will post the news to my guitar students. Is there a release date can I preorder will it be sold on Amzon?

    January 18, 2014 at 9:07 am

    • Hello Michael, no publication date yet – I’m hoping late summer. It will be sold on Amazon and therefore you would be able to place an order there.

      January 30, 2014 at 9:06 am

  5. Shaun Cook

    Great news! I have all of your songwriting books in paperback and I’ve just recently started purchasing them on the iPad. The digital versions really help your books come to life. Being able to play the audio examples right there on the page you’re reading is amazing!
    The only 2 that are missing are The Songwriting Sourcebook and How to Write Songs on Keyboards. By chance any idea if they’re going to be added to the iBookstore?

    February 13, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    • Hello Shaun, thanks for your comments. I’m glad to hear the IPad versions have the audio. All of the e-book side of things goes on without anyone telling me at all. That’s the first I’ve heard. I’m pleased you’ve enjoyed the books. Songs and Solos should be out early in September.

      February 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

  6. Hello Michael – my publisher tells me the publication time is early September.

    February 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

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